Upasalha Jataka (#166)

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who lived deep in the Himalayas. A brahmin, as he grew old, told his wise son that when he died his body should be burnt in a place where no outcasts had ever been cremated. The son knew such an uncontaminated spot would be very hard to find and told his father to choose it himself. So the two of them walked up into the mountains and the father pointed out a spot between three hills, near where the Bodhisatta lived.

As they descended back to home they met the Bodhisatta walking up the mountain and stopped to talk. The father and son explained what they were doing and the Bodhisatta told them to follow him back up and he would tell them whether the chosen spot was truly pure or not. When they pointed out the place the Bodhisatta told them a great many people had been burnt in that very same spot, including the father in fourteen thousand of his previous lives. He then explained the path of kindness, honesty, justice, moderation, and self-control to them.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The brahmin and the son from the Bodhisatta’s time were earlier births of a brahmin and his son in the Buddha’s time. As the brahmin grew old he told his wise son (both of whom followed beliefs contrary to the Buddha’s teachings) that when he died his body should not be cremated in a cemetery where any outcasts could be burnt. But the son did not know of any uncontaminated places and told his father to choose it himself. So the two of them walked up into the mountains and the father pointed out a spot between three hills.

The evening before this the Buddha divined that these two men were ripe for having a spiritual breakthrough, so the next morning he waited for them at the bottom of the mountain. When the father and son came down the Buddha greeted them and asked what they had been doing. They explained and the Buddha asked to see the location they had chosen. So they went back up the mountain and when the son pointed out the place, the Buddha told them this story so they knew it was not the first time the father had chosen this particular cremation spot. The Buddha then explained dharma to them and they accepted it.

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